The South Korean government has placed the country on highest alert as a second strain of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed three days after a first outbreak was reported, officials said Thursday.
Travel Ban on Livestock
The A-type strain of foot-and-mouth disease was discovered at a Yeoncheon dairy farm, some 50 miles north of the capital Seoul, where at least 10 cows were found to have contracted the strain, according to food industry policy deputy minister Kim Kyeong-kyu.
After the O-type of the strain was detected southeast of the country, the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs ministry raised the country's alert status one level to the maximum. The ministry has since then issued a travel ban for all livestock in South Korea, while ordering tougher quarantine and sterilization protocols.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 8, at least 826 cattle have been culled, the minister said. About 86 live-stock markets in South Korea will be shut down while the travel ban is in place. Officials could not tell when the new ban will be lifted.
The ministry said this is the first time that two different strains of the same virus were reported in the country at the same time. Since 2000, seven out of eight cases of foot-and-mouth disease in South Korea were of the O-type strain.
In 2010, the government last raised the foot-and-mouth disease alert level at maximum, when the country grappled its worst-ever outbreak.
Seven types of viruses are known to cause foot-and-mouth disease, which mostly affects cloven-hoofed wildlife and livestock.
The country has taken all emergency measures against the disease, including a nationwide vaccination and a movement control order to contain the spread of the virus.
The ministry is currently conducting an epidemiological survey on all routes taken by workers and livestock infected by the new strain.
Researchers will send analyses of both type O and A strains to the World Health Organization (WHO) for Animal Health for detailed inspections.
All cattle in South Korea have been re-vaccinated against the O-type of the strain, and the livestock would need to be vaccinated again against the A-type virus.
South Korea regularly vaccinates its 3.4 million cattle and 10 million hogs against foot-and-mouth disease.
Meanwhile, Kyung-gyu said the government is looking to import more supplies of vaccine from a French institution.
Last year South Korea had to kill more than 33 million farm birds as it tried to contain the outbreak of bird flu.